Welcome to The Cage

Resolution and Revelations
The longest day finally ends

The monstrosity was gone – banished by Meloriss – but the whispers still swirled about in the tavern, which now looked more like a morgue. Bodies lay strewn about, the majority felled by the toxic cloud spewed into crowd by the corrupted automata. It was into this scene, as the last remaining survivors (not including our intrepid adventurers) scattered into the tunnels below Sigil’s streets, that Misty – who had ventured out to find Pippa – arrived. Fighting to resist the affects of the maddening whispers, the party worked on sealing the broken door and trying to heal up before the banished automata – if it could still be considered as such – returned. Well, all except for Misty, who started rifling through the pockets of the newly deceased, much to the consternation of the two Harmonium officers.

Eventually, the tavern was sealed (with authority, by Garrick’s Erupting Earth spell) and the party turned to deal with the remaining automata – the Bouncer – in the room. A moment before, as the whispers had been swirling about, it had been shaking, as if buffed by an unseen force. At some point, however, it became stock still and unresponsive. Several members of the party deduced that the whispers had corrupted the tiny oozes that burned the neural pathways into the sensate crystals that comprised its operating system, and was currently undergoing a rewrite. When it came back online, it would no doubt be hostile. Silt started working at separating the head from the body using acid, and was helped by Izzy, who rapidly cooled the exothermic reaction with a blast of her elemental magic and both Codex and Zilia, who hammered it with Eldritch Blasts and a warhammer, respectively. Finally, Pippa completed the task by conjuring a thorn whip and yanking the metal cranium from its body before it reactivated.

Having the better part of a minute left to them before the main antagonist reappeared, the party set up cover, cleared floor space, and continued to heal in preparation. When it reappeared, it managed only to score a couple of hits on Hesken before being taken down by the combined forces of the (partially) rejuventated PC’s, Kenneth, and Meloriss.

Shortly after, the Harmonium arrived, summoned via Leonard’s Harmonium Sending Stone and started taking statements and collecting evidence. Silt managed to talk them into letting her keep the skin that the monstrous automata had draped over its twisted frame, discovering a ring that was on one of the dangling fingers. Inspecting it, the bird woman discovered that it was a Ring of Three Wishes – now down to a single remaining wish – which Misty immediately tried (and failed) to steal.

Even the excitement over getting a wish was quickly overridden by the scene playing out off to the side between Kenneth and Meloriss. They spoke, but the more astute viewers noticed that Kenneth, while obviously smitten, seemed to be chatting like an awkward teenager meeting his fantasy crush for the first time. Meloriss, for her part, was kind, but radiated sadness. Eventually, the two parted, Leonard dragging Kenneth away, and the ladies in the party rounded on Meloriss, determined to get the details on their curiosu relationship.

Meloriss reveled that she and Kenneth had indeed met and lived out their adolescence in a carnival, traveling the planes and seeing many amazing things. Eventually, they decided to strike out on their own, as mercenaries and lovers. Selling their swords eventually led to adventuring with a party – one that was spirited to Sigil by the Lady of Pain in much the same way the PC’s had been recruited. Absentmindedly touching the faded circle under the elegant bracelet on her forearm, Meloriss told them about the Illithid colony that was attempting to gain a foothold in Sigil and overthrow the Lady. During the final battle with the colony’s elders, Meloriss found herself at the mercy of one of the flayers, on the verge of having her brain forcibly extracted. Kenneth threw himself between them, getting a nasty bite on the side of his head (some of the sharp-eyed party members had noticed that Kenneth wore his hair long – covering the scars – whereas all the other Harmonium officers were clean shaven with short hair). Meloriss, freed from the villain’s grip recovered and cut off one of the ’flayer’s four tentacles before it fled. The colony collapsed and the few remaining members that stayed in Sigil became just another gang, struggling for survival in the City of Doors.

Kenneth, unfortunately, had sustained a serious brain injury. While he was healthy in every other respect, his memory and personality were forever changed – including his memories of their time together. Unable to cope with seeing her lover in such a state, she left him in Sigil, where the Lady saw to it he would be taken care of in the Harmonium. It was there that Leonard was assigned to be his minder, patiently helping the former adventurer recover and keeping him out of trouble.

As the party made their way back through the tunnels to the Alehouse Drake (dabbing at what were certainly not tears) they began discuss how a wish might serve to give this tragic tale a happy ending …

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The Jolly Swallow
The longest day continues

24 Elient, 1816 (still!) – Sigil

Jumping back to party’s conversation with Kelmen Demache following the gem-crushing demonstration, the businessman pales visibly as they tell him how the Gearsmith is basically recording all the goings on in the city, as well as building some sort of giant construct incorporating his stolen technology. Sane gets a promise for some financial backing to try and break into the Foundry, but Kelmen understandably doesn’t want to be seen publicly funding a dark operation against the Gearsmith. They agree to funnel the money through Philo, who gets a visit from the party shortly after. He also is shaken by the implications of what has been revealed and agrees to produce scripts for the party that allow them to get Kelmen’s payments in secret.

Later, as night descends and the party is having dinner back at the Drake, playing with their shiny new gear, Witherton recalls Kenneth’s urgent desire to see the dancing girl (presumed to be the girl young Kenneth was smitten with back in Ravenloft) at The Jolly Swallow, and Leonard mentioning something about getting their via tunnels. They ask Astrid, the Drake’s proprietor and a former adventurer, for information. She tells them that shortly after the nights in Sigil became even more dangerous than they normally were due to the supernatural darkness, a couple of enterprising groups took it upon themselves to start clearing the tunnels that crisscrossed below the streets of Sigil and charging a toll for their efforts. Despite only ever intending to use her basement egress as an emergency exit, she agrees to let them out into the tunnels.

As the party progresses underground, they notice the tunnel is fairly clean and free of vermin. Some side passages are boarded up, and other marked with signs indicating locations above or warnings about sections that have not yet been cleared. At the first major intersection, they encounter two individuals: An illithid and a vampire (spawn), who request payment for access to the tunnels. Getting slips of paper showing that they paid and containing the evening’s pass-word, they are surprised at being allowed to continue unmolested.

As Hesken debates himself over not simply attacking the two traditionally evil creatures, they round a bend and encounter two women in long gowns standing in front of one of the boarded up openings. Moving to pass them, the women turn towards the party to show that one of them is holding a diamond, saying they found it on the ground and asking if they dropped it. Hesken and Silt, in the lead, notice a sulfurous odor and, as the woman steps away from the barrier, a thin trail of slime extending from under the woman’s dress. The dragonborn looks back just in time to see the diamond get absorbed into the woman’s hand, while her other arm extends into a large pseudopod and bashes him.

During the brief scuffle, the women are revealed to be simulacrums controlled by a creature known as an Ooblex that was hiding behind the boarded up tunnel entrance. After dispatching it, and the smaller spawn it vomited forth, the party found the diamond it was using as bait and continued on their way. Passing a couple of intersections, each guarded by a mindflayer and a vampire, they arrive at the subterranean entrance to The Jolly Swallow. Standing in line to get in, they notice Kenneth and Leonard ahead of them. There is also a large construct by the door serving as a bouncer.

Paying the cover fee and agreeing to the two-drink minimum (Hesken: only two??) they climb the stairs into a crowded room full of individuals from nearly every race sitting around a stage that extends out among the tables and a bar along one side. Lurking back in a corner, the group spots Cilix, the scribe-turned-private investigator working another case. They catch him up on recent goings on – to which he expresses great interest in the content of the crystals in the Gearsmith’s office – and he shares with them new about the opening of a new art gallery in a few days in which all the works of art are portals. Cilix feels that, given what happened at the Dead House, his former home, the gallery could be a likely target for some serious portal tampering.

As they’re talking, the lights are dimmed and the band starts playing a different set of music. Someone introduces the special act for the evening, Meloriss Yesedra and a woman wearing little more than veils and carrying a spear takes the stage. To the casual observer, she appears to be a drow, but closer inspection reveals a subtle shimmer to her hair and a milk white eyes. Her graceful movements as she dances blend and blur, leading Witherton to the conclusion that she may have fey ancestry. As she slams the spear into the stage and begins using it a pole, Kenneth is completely enthralled.

Unfortunately, a number of rowdy drunks sitting right by the stage get a little grabby. One of them manages only to snatch a veil as she passes by, and another stands up reaching for her. Suddenly, Meloriss has the man’s arm in a hold and her legs wrapped around his neck, wrenching back painfully. The man screams in pain and the rowdy group with him leap to attack. Enraged, Kenneth flips his table, rushing forward as Lenard yells “No killing, no killing!” Suddenly, there is a free-for-all in the Swallow.

Witherton gets Kenneth’s attention, tosses him his magic club. Sane uses Calm Emotion to settle a large section of the crowd, though several ruffians manage to resist. Hesken, Izzy, and Garrick force their way through the swirling melee to the stage. Before long, the massive clockwork bouncer makes it up the stairs. Witherton tries to stop it dropping ball bearings, but it proves surprisingly dextrous. Eventually, however, it makes its way up to grab one of the attackers and, as it is programmed to do, throws him out the front door. Unfortunately, the door is closed at the moment, and suddenly the room is filled with the maddening whispers of the night.

Suddenly, over all the screaming, crying, cursing, yelling, and hissing whispers comes a metallic scream. Into the room steps something out of a nightmare – A twisted, distorted clockwork monstrosity wearing what look to be the remains of people. Witherton blasts it, only to find himself wrapped up in one of the two barbed chain whips carried in its multiple arms. The nightmare then fills the room with a deadly noxious cloud and a number of people caught in it are killed; even the sturdy figure of Garrick getting felled in the noxious fumes. Silt flaps her wings, desperate trying to clear the poison cloud. Kenneth surges forward to attack this new menace as Witherton miraculously manages to avoid being pulled into the maw of grinding, gnashing gears in its open torso. Meloriss leaps from the stage and seams to dance unimpeded across the bodies strewn across the floor to cast a spell on the monster. It disappears, temporarily banished, while the bodies and whispers remain.

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You Never Know Unless You Ask
A lucky roll leads to a change in the party's fortunes

In the aftermath of the shootout, concern over crossbow bolts flying around are quickly supplanted by concern over the fire now starting to spread through the Bazaar. Working together, the party manages to keep it from spreading much further, but are left to try and placate a suspicious Kenneth and Leonard, who are obligated to cite the arcane arsonist (Kitiara) with reckless endangerment. During the course of their investigation, Kenneth happens upon a poster announcing what appears to be a drow dancing girl named Meloriss Ysedra at the Jolly Swallow, near the Lady’s Ward. The large Harmonium officer becomes rather excited at this revelation and begs (unintentionally threatens) Leonard to see her this evening. In the process, Kenneth reveals a faded circular mark – the Lady’s Mark – peaking out from under his bracer. He refers to it as his ‘birthmark’ and seems genuinely surprised when the members of the party reveal that they to have the same mark.

Also encountered in the chaotic morning: Scaly Pete, who notices that Sane is looking rather shiny this morning – having shed his skin the night before. Sane gives him the discarded dermis, per their agreement. Sherith Brixnia also happens to be in the market, frustrated at the complete lack of spider silk and gets talked by Sane into turning the skin into a special outfit for Scaly Pete.

Returning to the Alehouse Drake after the excitement of the morning, the party – via Witherton – finally plumb the depths of the automaton’s crystal they ‘liberated’ a few days ago.

En route to Kelmen’s house to appraise him of the situation, they send a tout out to find Cilix, and finally cash in their receipts from the two material deliveries from Philo to the Gatehouse. Griping about the state of their finances, the party arrives at large townhouse only to be informed that Kelmen is at his warehouse, he and his partner – Aias Gerber – are giving a demonstration.

The group arrives to see Aias operating a hydraulic arm – powered by more of ElemenTech’s cylinders – easily lifting heavy crates and barrels. The presentation is then turned over to a group of Red Monks who spread a heavy canvas tarp and dump a massive pile of gemstones on the floor. As one of the Monks gives a talk about letting go of material possessions and not being a slave to material wealth, the crowd – as especially the party – watch in horror as Aias uses the arm to crush the pile of gemstones into dust. Taking up the canvas tarp, the Monks then leave with the freshly ground gem dust as Kelmen and Aias are swarmed with business inquiries.

Following the Monks, Witherton and Sane attempt to convince them to hand over some (if not all of the dust) – Sane’s Suggestion is easily shrugged off; Witherton, however, makes a very compelling request and is granted a small pouch full of dust. After a quick conversation with Kelmen, the party returns to the Drake and works together to perform a souped-up Mending ritual on the dust, restoring the gems to their pre-crushed state. Flush with cash for the first time since they arrived, they quickly descended upon the Bazaar to spend their cash before nightfall.

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Shootout at the Alehouse Drake
Leveling, learning, and meeting new adventurers

24 Elient, 1816 – Sigil

The next morning, the party is gathered for breakfast in the Mortuary break room, trying to figure out their plans for the day when a knock at the large set of front doors draws their attention. An attendant opens it to find an Illithid, accompanied by what appears to be a female in a full burka-style covering, request to speak with Anatoli. The Master of the Mortuary is summoned from his treating of Gerald’s psychosis. The Mindflayer asks him about a massive psychic pulse sensed coming from the Mortuary the night before. Anatoli lies and says it could have been some experimentation on one of the many preserved brains they keep, but doesn’t know of any specific activity that would have caused it. The Mindflayer scrutinizes him closely, then turns and leaves.

Hesken is compelled to visit the Temple of Paladine in the Temple District, where he happens upon a distraught Triton Paladin named Scorn sitting outside the closed and shuttered Temple of Ioun. It seems that the followers of the goddess of knowledge have lost their divine connection. Without the ability to provide guidance, donations have dried up and the temple had to close. They learn that the connection stopped at or around the time that the darkness started in Sigil.

Back in the Grand Bazaar, Misty and Witherton approach a couple of Red Monks, asking about the Hidden Kingdom. They aren’t really enticed into learning more when it becomes apparent that they’re not the ‘right’ type of monks – instead of accepting the invitation of dedicating themselves to a lifetime of spare living and rigorous self-discipline, they look elsewhere.

Sane gorges on ‘furry basement treats’ that Silt is carrying and makes a bee line for the Alehouse Drake (via Kelmen’s portal near the Foundry) to enter into a type of hibernation and shed his skin. Silt wanders into a shop – Suwa’s Tonics and Treats – and discovers a new type of chemically-powered automaton, created by the shop’s proprietor. After expressing interest in learning more, she is invited back into the alchemist’s workshop for an introduction to the craft.

Garrick, while studying the composition and nature of Sigil’s foundation, is compelled to experiment with Razorvine. He takes a nasty gash for his trouble, but learns how to efficiently harvest the plant in his growing desire to remain in a mentally-altered state.

Wandering the Bazaar, a mysterious knight inquires about Sane’s whereabouts. After being directed to the local expert on reptiles – one Scaly Pete – the woman, herself a Yuan-Ti, convinces the herpetologist that she has a job offer for Sane. Directed to the Alehouse Drake, she rents a room and waits.

25 Elient, 1816 – Sigil

The next morning, the group is again gathered for breakfast down in the common room, when they hear a crash outside. They open the door to see a cart knocked over, caused by a gang of Orcs carrying the shiny new ElemenTech bows. In hot pursuit are Kenneth and Leonard, similarly armed. A shootout ensues. Through the combined efforts of the adventurers and the Harmonium officers, four Orcs are killed, two captured, and two escaped.

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A Bouquet of Betrayal

??? – Day 18, Vassa Nova

The Lawbringers escort the farmer and his (still possessed) wife to the prison gates, where they are berated for not using their Divine Sense to validate the farmer’s claims. They do, and the presence of the ghosts gives them pause. As they debate how best to handle the situation, another group of Lawbringers escorts a local out of the building, his attempts to inspect a dockside warehouse and its mysterious visitors leading to a trespassing charge and an overnight stay in jail. Frustrated that no one will believe him about the strange goings on and the pale, sharp-toothed skulkers, he dejectedly heads home.

Meanwhile, back at the wagon, the sun has nearly set and some Lawbringers move to eliminate the horse before it can turn into Nightmare – as happens in Vassa Nova. Tharn, seeing them approach, acts quickly and fells the beast himself in a single blow. Impressed with his ability and obvious respect for the law (and completely unaware of his identity as a Illithid) the Lawbringers invite him to visit their temple. It’s an offer to which he gives serious consideration.

Eventually, the group decides that the warehouse angle is the most promising and follow the recent jailbird to his flat over a tavern. Mal converses through the door to get the location of the warehouse. Arriving there a short while later, they notice that the immediate vicinity is suspiciously quiet – no patrols, no nightlife, nobody walking on the streets. Using a gaseous form provided by Mal, Slave 1 and the ghosts case the joint, noticing a small crate out of line with all the other neatly stacked and arranged barrels and crates and stamped with the name ‘Mr. Blue’. They perceive that they are not alone, but can’t find anyone else inside the warehouse.

As Slave 1 unlocks the door, Tharn uses his ring of jumping to quickly move towards the suspicious crate, grab it and evacuate the warehouse. Sure enough, as soon as he passes the threshold, black tentacles erupt from the ground, flailing wildly. Alfredo, caught in the middle of them, banishes himself to what is, in this instance, a safer place. As the rest of the party move up, the three vampire spawn and two yeth hounds that survived the village assualt leap down on the party from the roof. Meanwhile, back inside the warehouse, one of the ghosts and Slave 1 encounter a unsettling vampire with pitch black eyes than can himself move like a ghost. Slave 1, attempting to contain this foe, starts a fire in the warehouse, which begins to spread rapidly.

As the battle rages, Tharn fights valiantly against the vampires, nearly holding the assault at bay single-handedly. Until, that is, the strangers suddenly appears behind him, banishing the warrior from this plane, leaving – to everyone’s surprise – a human ghost where his body was but a moment before. The newly ghosted Tharn takes the opportunity to hop into the recently vacated body of one of the farm children that Vance was keeping in tow, and runs around yelling about the fire.

Before long, the sound of metal feet marching on cobblestone. The vampire spawn try to bolt, but are skewered by the arriving Lawbringers. The Umbral Vampire escapes and before the party can give chase, find themselves surrounded by Lawbringers. As they advance, spears out, they entire squad freezes and a cloaked figure steps out of the shadows and into the firelight. The High Master of the Illithid has arrived and wants his box.

Leading the group away from the still frozen Lawbringers and the now raging warehouse fire, the High Master takes the party down a dark alley, where they catch the scraps of a conversation between a rather drunk cleric of Ioun and a mysterious figure in what appears to be a red robe.

??? – Day 18, Bluetspur

Avoiding detection, the group steps into a swirling mist and eventually come out in Bluetspur, just as night is falling and the characteristically intense lighting storms of the domain start drifting towards them from over the jagged mountain peaks.

Lead by the High Master, the party races towards the nearest cave – of which there are many, honeycombing the mountains in this region – and make it to safety right as the first bolts begin to fall around them. Now in the darkness of the caves, the High Master insists on absolute silence, as there are highly dangerous creatures roaming about. The group attempts – and fails (no thanks to the ghosts) – repeatedly, resulting in several of the still-living party members being pounced and eaten in the inky blackness.

By the time the group arrives at the colony gates – huge iron doors that appear to have been scratched by something(s) wanting inside – only Vance and Alfredo remain alive. The High Master leads them into his private chambers above the colony, when they find a someone waiting for them – Lyssa von Strahd, being attended to by the black-eyed fiend from the warehouse.

The group disc—overs how the High Master and Lyssa have been working together to create a race of vampire illithid for the High Master to control and help Lyssa overthrow her uncle back in Borovia. Unfortunately for them, the alien physiology of the mindflayers cannot be turned directly. Through experimentation, they discovered that by implanting a spawn in a human, then turning the human, they could create a power hybrid. Unfortuantely, the hybrids were completely insane and uncontrollable.

Using a mysterious journal, Lyssa and the High Master discovered and constructed a strange apparatus that could transfer consciousness. The High Master intends to put his mind inside the body a vampire illithid they were keeping bound in heavy chains – but to make sure the process is safe, a test run will be held using one of the Tepest survivors.

As the vampire and mindflayer discuss which of the two survivors are best suited for the experiment, Vance turns to Alfredo … and unleashes a fireball catching the entire room. The High Master avoids the flames using a force cube while Lyssa merely shrugs off the damage. Alfredo, still hurt and exhausted from his earlier adventures, once again banishes himself to safety. Vance then volunteers for the experiment, believing it an act of worship to her diety, Manzicorian.

As the High Master slots the final piece of the Apparatus (carried in the box from Kantora) into position and prepares to throw the switch, Alfredo returns to the now empty personal chambers and hurries down to the gates, hoping to throw them open, allowing the feral vampire illithid that roam the caves in to the colony. Unfortunately, he is not strong enough to force them open and succeeds only in attracting the attention of the Umbral Vampire, who proceeds to rip him to shreds.

Back in the apparatus, Vance experiences transference, but is only conscious inside the vampire illithid for a few seconds before aspects of her personality and sanity are shed from the undersized and blood-starved brain. The world fades to darkness ….

23 Elient, 1816 – Sigil

The party comes to in the basement of the Mortuary. Anatoli, exhausted and famished from keeping the spell going for almost two days straight, collapses. As each person reminds and reassures themselves of their true identity (and not knowing who was inhabiting whom inside Ravenloft), they realize a couple details: First, Esmerelda is gone. Second, one of the cast metal runes in the magic circle embedded in the stone floor has been pried up, negating the circle.

Suddenly free from the spell, the vampire illithid heaves against its chains, pulling them from the ceiling. Everyone begins moving towards the door as a Mortuary cleric – Zilia, arrives to inquire as to the abrupt departure of Esmerelda. Not sure what to do, they send a couple of spells at the creature turning to face them, but do little. It retaliates with a mind blast and starts to advance on them when Gerald, suffering from an unfortunate psychosexual side effect of his time in the creature’s fractured mind, casts Command Undead and keeps it in the circle until the rune can be repaired, Anatoli revived, and the magic restored. The chains, however, are damaged and can’t be reinserted in the stone – so they head upstairs, trusting the magic circle and the various wards on the room to keep it contained.

Exhausted and a little disturbed, the party spends the night at the Mortuary.

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Rampage, carnival, Kantora (pt 1)

Tharn lands in a unexpectedly quiet and apparently empty village – that is, until he goes to throw open the gates. A scream from across the small walled village draws his attention to a house and the figure of a woman being dragged inside by a pale arm. As the rest of the party rushes in, an eerie howl goes up all around them and a pack of Yeth Hounds, on rooftops and in front of the last house, appear. Almost all the Nightmares bolt in fear, leaving the party and a pair of stubborn ’Mares willing to fight. Swinging up on one of the Nightmares, Tharn charges towards the house, Petassum on his head, while the others mostly stand back and lob magic at the pack and set things – including the house holding the humans – on fire.

Inside the house, a pair of vampires are slaughtering the people of the village. Tharn leaps once more, crashing through the roof, and suddenly gets jumped by another handful of vampires that were lying in wait. Calling upon her fell deity, Petassum unleashes a mighty Turn Undead that sends most of the vampires running. The remaining vampires attempt to kill more humans as the hounds harass the party. Eventually, the two surviving hounds retreat in the wake of their vampire masters. The party takes the surviving couple of humans and offers them to the Nightmares.

Realizing there are not enough humans to appease all the Nightmares, Drukt literally runs away from the village. The angry Nightmares see her and give chase, prompting the party to hop on their temporarily allied Nightmares and pursue them. Thanks to a Haste spell, Drukt survives the encounter and keeps the renegade Nightmares running long enough for the party to take them out.

Back in the village, brains are eaten and a note is found telling someone’s parents that they’ve had enough of living in a tiny muddy village and have run off to join a traveling carnival that passed by recently. One of the Illithid, having eaten the mother’s brain, recalls that the ‘-K’ who signed the letter is her son, named Kenneth. About then, they noticed a garishly dressed man in a jesters’ costume balancing on the wall above them. It seems he was dropping by to let the boy’s family know where they might find their son. However, given that the village was freshly eradicated, decides to keep the boy in his care. He does invite the Mindflayer party to drop by and enjoy themselves (provided they don’t cause too much trouble) on their way to Kantora.

??? – Day 17, Vassa Nova

After much debate, and the promise of a draw from the Jester’s Deck (of Many Things) for any participants, the party finally decides to sample the sights and sounds – but not the brains – of the carnival. In the guise of humans they play games – Alfredo nearly drowns in the dunk tank – watch performances, and view a variety of unusual creatures from across the planes. The ghostly Princess is drawn to an enchanting young woman (an unusual drow/fey hybrid), and possesses her after she finishes a sword dance. Awkwardly, this happens as a shy young man attempts to clumsily chat her up. A short while later, after the party recovers from they realization of who the young man is, they decide it’s time to leave for the evening. Princess is forced to leave the girl behind, the Jester explaining that she is part of their family and under his protection.

The party members line up to get their draw from the Deck of Many Things. Almost all of them are positive – or at least not terrible – with two notable exceptions: Quoor draws a card that summons a Glabrezou and Drukt draws Death. Two messy battles later, Drukt is now a ghost, and the already ghostly Quoor is hiding in the ethereal after tricking the demon into attacking Vance. Exhausted and short on options, the party manages to negotiate an overnight stay in a barn, which Tharn fortifies.

??? – Day 18, Vassa Nova

The next day the party’s ghosts possess the four members of the family, and take their wagon to Kantora, the capital of Vassa Nova and the location that the Tepest hags suggested the Illithid might find the High Master of Bluetspur. The discover the city under the rule of a strict authoritarian sect of Paladins called the Lawbringers, who have been supporting the illegitimate Prince Othmar. In an attempt to get information, two of the ghosts find themselves leading their hosts into the Lawbringers custody and being marched to jail for indecency, whoring without a license, and (presumably – as the now-unpossessed farmer keeps babbling about ghosts) public intoxication.

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Catching Up (again)

??? – Day 6, Liara (Vassa Nova)

The party discovers that the growing rebellion in Liara is actually run by a pair of Dream Eaters – fiends who feed off of pain and despair – who never really wanted to topple the government anyway, just get fat off of the people’s despair in failing (repeatedly, if the party hadn’t intervened). They cut a deal with the demons, and decide to skip town before the Aboleth does a completely expected betrayal and enslaves the party. They sneak to the docks, steal a boat, and blow a hole through the portcullis to escape to the river, while crossbow bolts splash behind them.

??? – Day 7, Vassa Nova

The party lured to a seemingly abandoned farm by the river find themselves trapped in a time loop caused by a desperate mother and daughter practitioners of blood magic, attempting to keep a Gallows Tree and its branches full of zombies from escaping. Finally solving the order of events and contributing a portion of their own blood to break the loop, the Illithids group up with a boat full of ghosts – also trapped by the curse – to take the tree down. Discovering quite a bounty among the remains.

??? – Day 8, Vassa Nova

Drawn by the scent of brains on the wind, the party disembarks to track the scent to a strange, fenced in garden full of Green Brains and tended to by zombies. In an attempt to swipe one of the plants, Princess is blown out of the sky and comes dangerously close to real death as a Tharn finds himself stuck to the owner of a garden – a Cerebral Stalker – and slowly dragged underground. The party prevails and, after narrowly escaping a herd of Nightmares using the Folding Boat, finds a stranger standing on the riverbank calling to their boat. The stranger turns out to the a cleric of Orcus (being drawn around on a rickshaw by two Bodaks) looking for information as to the whereabouts of Vecna. It seems the lich took something of value from Orcus and now the demon prince of undeath is looking for payback. The party agrees to keep an eye out and breathe a sigh of relief as the groups peaceably go their separate ways.

??? – Day 9, Vassa Nova

The party provokes a pair of tenacious River Trolls before having to navigate a dangerous stretch of rocks and rapids. The original boat is lost, but fortunately, the party had recently acquired a magical Folding Boat, allowing them to continue down the river.

??? – Day 10, Vassa Nova

A mid-river fishery, overrun by crab creatures, draws the party ashore and attempts to make sushi of them. The group executes a fighting retreat around the island in order to hop in their boat and escape – but not before picking up a new passenger. Dubbed “Lunch” by the Illithid, the human owner of the fishery agrees to travel with the party to server as their diplomatic face.

? – Days 11-12, ?

Mists descend upon the party, and while they find themselves still on a river when it departs, questions arise as to where exactly they are. Local farms are desperately pulling any and all man-made items out of the water and disassembling them (including boats and docks) in preparation for the super blue blood moon – the reasoning behind this ritual being unknown to the farmers, who continue working feverishly and preparing for a festival celebrating Bane (the god of murder). Night passes without incident and things are fine until Princess, insane with hunger and very upset at the sub-standard accommodations, silences (and eats) one of the farmers’ children, setting off a furor. It doesn’t take long before the Illithid have massacred nearly everyone in the vicinity (purely in the name of self-defense, according to them), leaving a handful of survivors fleeing along the river for their lives.

Not perceiving any problems with the river, the party jumps in the their boat, only to quickly realize that things are not right. Any crafted or constructed objects that get wet suddenly spring to life and attack the party, including the boat itself. After a harrowing battle, the party find themselves out a boat and on the run (riding horses taken from the farm) from a pack of werewolves that were drawn to the burning farmhouses. Princess dies in the ensuing chase, though the parties ghosts (now one more in number) inhabit the bodies of several of the wolves.

? – Days 13-14, ?

Following the trail of the farmland refugees, the party decides to skirt an ominous wood, rather than travel through it. That night, they are attacked by a strange mist. They discover the forest has strange properties (The party warlock nearly choking to death on a spoonful of sap) and that something massive is pacing them inside the forest. Continuing along, they are met at a bridge by a local power – possibly a nature spirit, with an affinity for wolves, both dire and were. The party negotiates a deal: get the lords’ daughter back from a vampire wannabe (actually a necromancer) and they can cross the bridge. After trading away a couple of magic items for the help of a planar ally (in the form of a powerful devil) the party survives the encounter and crosses the bridge.

? – Days 15, ?

Continuing their journey along the river, the party passes into another forest (this one less overtly ‘spoopy’) and sets up camp … inside a fairy ring. Waking to find themselves the size of pixies, the party murders a bunch of curious ants and spiders before coming face-to-face with the queen, who demands that they dispatch a group of smelly humans (slavers) encamped in her forest in the most amusing ways the can perform. Gifting them with a variety of condition-inducing consumables, the queen watches and cheers as the humans (and their hell hounds) are horribly assaulted, mangled, and killed by the tiny Illithid.

? – Days 16, ? → Vassa Nova

Departing from the scene of the crime with additional horses and wagons, the mind-flayer murder hobos find themselves once again surrounded by the mists of Ravenloft. While traversing this eerie crossroads, the party is attacked – presumably by a curse uttered by the final werewolf as it was petrified the day before – by an unseen assailant, who transforms Tharn into a Wereboar. Fighting blind, the party manages to chase the unwanted party-crasher into – and out of – Xani the monk, before finally dissipating it for good.

As the mists lift, the group find themselves back in Vassa Nova, still by the river … right as the sun is setting. Suddenly, their horses burst into flame as the dark powers of this realm twist them into vessels for fiends. After promising them all the blood and souls they could want, the Nightmares decide to give them a night to prove that they can deliver on their promises, setting off a frantic search for a settlement. After encountering – once again – the Orcus priest – they find a small, walled village. With a screaming leap, Tharn uses his magic ring to leap the palisade, intending to land and throw open the gates …

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On the River

??? – Day 3, Vassa Nova

Not long after the party emerges from the mists into Vassa Nova, they realize they are not alone. A pair of boats come into the view in the distance, loaded with angry, armed humans from the two towns visited by the Illithids. As the group is beset by Sahaugin, the humans get closer and closer, eventually release a pair of carrier pigeons, bound for Liara. The Mindflayers eventually fight off the fish-creatures, and hide themselves in an arcane fog, slipping into a cave off of the river, hoping the humans pass them by in the fog. While inside the cave, the group encounter the Sahaugins’ pet Hydra, defeating it and uncovering a sizeable hoard of coinage.

??? – Day 4, Liara (Vassa Nova)

Nervously leaving the shelter of the cave, the riverboat starts making it’s way towards the stone walls of Liara, fully intending to pass what is certain to be a hostile town on the far side of the river. Suddenly, a message-bearing pigeon lands on the prow of the boat, indicating the mayor of the town would like to parlay with the group out on the river. Tharn, determined to skip the town entirely (and not become a crossbow pincushion in the process). As the fighter continues to try and row the boat alone, the rest of the party yells across to the small rowboat bearing two humans into the river. After being repeatedly told that the mayor wanted to see this motley group rumored to be raiding up and down the river, the group realizes there is an oily shadow under the row boat. As a chilly realization dawns on the group that the mayor is actually an Aboleth who controls the town, they decide to take their chances and resupply.

While in town, the Mayor reveals that a group of rebels are fighting against its rule, imply that it would show a great deal of appreciation should the group deal with them. As they poke around town, doing some shopping and having their weapons silvered (in the hopes that such an enhancement might help against the vampires chasing them), they notice an abandoned, run down temple in town that the locals appear to eschew. Poking around the ruin, a hidden trapdoor is discovered, leading down into the catacombs where a stockpile of weapons and armor are being stored under the banner of a white gauntlet on the wall. Investigating the area, the party provokes a group of spider-infested zombies and incurs the wrath of a large Corpseweaver which manages to kill Quoor before being felled. After determining there were no more immediate threats, the group takes a long rest.

??? – Day 5, Liara (Vassa Nova)

As the battered and bruised party try to quietly make their way out of the ruined temple, they encounter a group of people listening to a proclamation being read: The mayor had been assassinated and, in a surprisingly quick meeting, the town council has selected a new mayor. In speaking with agents the ‘true’ Mayor, it was revealed that the human-facing agent of the Aboleth was shocked to find themselves face-to-face with themselves. The assassin, for their part, were shocked to have the town’s guards set upon them almost immediately, jumping out a nearby window and disappearing into the town.

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Catching Up

21 Elient, 1816 – Sigil
Party uses nearly-forgotten portal in Kelmen’s Basement to travel to an alley between the Gearsmith’s base of operations in the Factorum and the Shattered Temple. They use
the Rope Trick spell traded from Esmerelda on a Clockwork Watchman. As Gerald dismantles the Watchman and analyzes how the contents of the brainbox work, Phase Spiders start tearing their way into the tiny extra-dimensional room. Gerald finally extricates the largest of the sensory stones – marked Hold Dark Discretely (HDD, for short) and jumps out. Using the Phase Spiders as a distraction and to cover their tracks, the party makes it back to Kelmen’s House.

After talking with Kelmen, the party determines that they need the help of a powerful mage and/or possibly a psyker to access the stone. Gerald remarks that there are all kinds of brains at the Mortuary – surely one of those will work. Arriving at the Mortuary, the party treats with Anatoli who is happy to offer up use of ‘the jars,’ but take Gerald aside and mentions he may have something more effective. The necromancers descend into the lowest depths of the Mortuary, into a hidden and highly warded chamber, where Anatoli displays, chained up in a magic circle, a vampire Illithid.

22 Elient, 1816 – Sigil

The next morning, Esmerelda arrives at Mortuary to help Anatoli cast an enhanced variation of Magic Jar to send the party into the Vamp Illitihids’ mind, hoping to find someway of interfacing w/the stone. Reality shatters and the party descend into darkness …

??? (Day 1) – Tepest
A small colony of Mindflayers in the rugged mountains are chased from their caves by a sudden vampire assault. Guided by a Githyanki (who is promptly disposed of once his usefulness is over) Lyssa von Strahd lays waste to the colony. Sacrificing himself, their leader tells a handful to warn the Dark Lord of Bluetspur of the incursion. They escape through a narrow tunnel out the back and make their way to the nearest settlement – the human town of Viktal.

Desperate to get out over water (presumably because it’s safe) the party works desperately to convince some fisherman, as well as the Captain of the Town Watch (gotta get plate armor somehow) to take an evening ‘cruise.’ As the party prepares to overwhelm the humans on the boat, a distraction results in the boat being assaulted by several Sauhaguin. A three-way battle to the death ensues and the Illithid survive as the cost of Rapuzel’s Intellect Devourer pets (dogs).

Using sailing knowledge eaten from the fishermen’s brains, the ‘Flayers manage to get the boat relatively close to where the Hags meet with their colony to parlay and receive gifts in the form of human bodies (sans brains, of course). The hags, happy with the bounty they bring, suggest they look for BluetSpur’s High Master Illithid in Kantora, the captial city of the neighboring Vassa Nova domain.

The party manages to avoid most – not all – goblins as they make their way through the dark mountain forest to the next settlement down river from the hags – the town of Kellee. As the sun has set, the town is shut up tight and the party is forced to hold off a goblin attack from within the crumbling remains of a cottage outside the town.

??? (Day 2) – Tepest
The next morning, as the town begins to stir, the party decides that, instead of attempting to sneak inside, they should skirt the town and steal a boat. The plan nearly works, but is thwarted when a lock keeping the boat chained to the dock refuses to give. As fishermen exit the town to begin their day’s work, the group of Illithid are spotted and a number of town guard rush out to stop them.

After a messy fight, the boat is finally freed from the dock – though with a hole – and the party start making their way down river, albeit still under fire from the irate townspeople. As they fight with the leaking boat and drift closer to the southern shore, a low hanging tree allows a vampire to rush out and leap into the boat with them. The vampire tosses several over board – where they quickly scramble back aboard to avoid more scaly encounters in the deep, dark water of the river – before eventually being overwhelmed and tossed in the water itself to a gruesome end.

Having stopped the leak and now finally out of range of the Kellee crossbows, the party find themselves drifting into a thick mist. Using all their abilities, they manage to emerge in Vassa Nova, headed towards the stone walls of Liara.

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Strange Bacon
Finally, something Silt thinks twice about eating

20 Elient, 1816.12

The following morning, around breakfast, the party tried to sort out the growing rift among them about the use of elementals in weapons. It was agreed that, for the time being, they would refrain from traveling to the Elemental Plane of Air to capture elementals for Kelmen.

Instead, the party agreed to follow another line of intrigue – that of the automatons and a means of safely getting inside one without notifying the Gearsmith of their tampering. Needing a rope trick spell, Sane proposed returning to the Hall of Speakers, finding Esmerelda and asking for a copy. Kelmen was supportive of their plans, but made clear that neither he nor ElemenTech could be tied to any illegal activity.

As the group traveled to the Hall of Speakers (and, as Silt pointed out, the portal to the Elemental Plane of Air), each member used a skill to avoid trouble. For her part, Izzy decided to play the clueless tourist and asked for directions. The cager she approached appeared friendly enough, but when they went their separate ways, she noticed that her coin purse was missing. Unfortunately for the would-be pickpocket, it was empty.

As they ascended the steps to the Hall, the group ran into the very person they sought – Esmerelda Froche – who was just arriving, her footmen in tow, carrying two large crates between them, from which snorting, growls, and what appeared to be the occasional furry tentacle appeared. Esmerelda explained that, in her enthusiasm to test the effects of the darkness, she had conducted an experiment on her own – by leaving two large boars outside at night.

As she tried to explain what happened – and as the party tried to negotiate a trade for the Rope Trick spell (Witherton offered to give her Sandwall for both Rope Trick and Bane – two which she agreed) – they determined that a magic circle would be needed to contain the creatures and proceeded into the hall in which the Mage Council would have its next meeting.

As Kurick began a ritual to speak with animals, and Witherton was busy copying the rope trick spell, Codex attempted to inscribe a magic circle. The party fell into one of its many roundabout discussions as she was trying to inscribe runes as the type of creature that needed contained (Sane insisted it was an abomination, some questioned weather or not it was still just a beast, albeit altered).

Suddenly, one of the footmen holding a crate lost his grip and it crashed to the ground, releasing a large boar, festooned with eyes, lashing tentacles, and acid-filled boils. As the party reacted the monster’s inevitable charge, and errant blast from Witherton released the second creature – very similar to the first, but with a long tentacle-like tongue instead of boils.

After trading some attacks, one of the Riftswine finally succumbed to its injuries and collapsed in a twitching heap. Kurik, who had dealt the killing blow, watched in horror as the numerous eyes extracted themselves from the corpse with a squelching ‘pop!’ and began to orbit him. Suddenly, the barbarian could not see – an uncomfortable pressure mounting around his skull as his own eyes were nearly sucked from their sockets.

Before too long, the second creature fell, it’s many unnatural eyes rising to become yet another disgusting swarm, surrounding Codex. Using magic, the party managed to destroy the rogue organs without losing any of their own eyes or being permanently blinded.

Some debate was had as to the safety (and sanity) of attempting to consume any part of the corpses – mainly by Silt, who decided to just a preserve a small bit of meat for later.

As the party traveled back to Kelmen Demache, thinking about how they would incapacitate an automaton, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a handful of ruffians – led by the pickpocket from that very morning. The party, having no interested in anything remotely resembling diplomacy, tore into the hapless ruffians in full view of everyone. After butchering them on the street (Silt, again), Sane decided a massive Calm Emotions and a hasty retreat were in order.

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